The WSCL Blog

News and information about WSCL's Classical Music Programming

Friday, August 28, 2015

Just Opened - August 28, 2015

Wagner and World music today on Just Opened... with a bit of Poulenc thrown in for spice!

Kontras Quartet
MSR 1537
ISBN#6 81585 15372 7
Official website for Kontras Quartet
Works that are alternately challenging, whimsical, inventive, melodic and engaging fill the adventuresome program on this CD.  A work called "Hunting: Gathering" inspired by native South African sound motifs; "Japanese Folk song Suite" has been a performance favorite of this group, and they have finally recorded it.  Formed in 2009 Kontras Quartet consider themselves pioneers in genre-defying collaborations.  The group has a stated appetite for the musically bizarre and unexpected, and they found satisfaction for this in Stravinsky's "3 pieces", and the program closes with a playful, accessible work by modern composer Dan Visconti that includes snippets of songs, rhythmic intricacy and special effects, "Ramshackle Songs."

David Deveau, piano
ISBN# 0 34062 30051 8
Deveau's faculty page on MIT website
My Delight of the Week!  The works and life of Wagner form a touchstone for the works on this CD, from Liszt's piano transcription (arr. by Rubinstien) of Wagner's title work, 2 of Liszt's works inspired by his personal friendship and musical admiration of Wagner, and then contemporary works of Brahms, which bring more warmth into the program.   These are some of Liszt's darkest works, his technical proficiency sometimes adding a chill to the darkness, so the Brahms  capriccios and intemezzi - while still often introspective and melancholy - add a beautiful balance to the shadows.  Deveau's career as a soloist and chamber musician have taken him around the world many times over.  This CD presents a thoughtful program of a mature, accomplished artist who has been a "Steinway Artists" since 1999.

Complete Music for Winds & Piano
The Iowa Ensemble
MSR 1540
ISBN# 6 81585 15402 1
for information & purchase
Detailed review of this CD in "The Classical Reviewer"
To me, the essential sound of Poulenc is a slightly tipsy take on soulful melody and skipping innocence that is just awakening to the complexity of adult life.   Winds are the perfect vehicle for his particular and peculiar mental & musical worlds, and here we have works that run the gamut from early works of rule-breaking nonsense to later works of engaging complexity.  Do take time to read the review in the link, it is comprehensive and glowing!

Wesendonck - Lieder
Sea Pictures
Sarah Rose Taylor, mezzo
Nigel Potts, organ
Grace Cloutier, harp
MSR 1532
ISBN# 6 81585 15322 2
Taylor's website; Pott's website
Traditional works performed by 3 young performers in the international limelight.  Nigel Potts has become renowned worldwide as “a consummate musician who knows how to communicate the essence of [the] music” (The American Organist), and whose “playing is assured and stylish” (Organists' Review, UK). He has built a reputation for his expressive, colorful and tasteful performances, always communicating and placing the music at the forefront with “…warm, sympathetic playing” (Choir & Organ, UK).  British born mezzo-soprano Sarah Rose Taylor is rapidly becoming recognized for her warm and full tones "Germanic" voice.  Now based in Manhattan, the works on this CD were the featured works of her Carnegie Hall debut in 2014.  She has had wide ranging experience as a soloist in oratorios, in addition to many opera roles.  Grace Cloutier rounds out the group of accomplished young musicians; an intenationally recognized harpist who has studied on both sides of the Atlantic, and whose 8 CDs demonstrate her particular affinity for accompaniment in addition to solo and orchestral work, and she adds additional color to a few cuts here.  The works on this CD are all transcribed by Nigel Potts for organ and vocalist.

Join us next week for more new releases, Just Opened.
Kara Dahl Russell

Friday, August 21, 2015

JUST OPENED - August 21, 2015 - Bach and Beyond

Today we have a grounding of Basic Bach and then make musical excursions all over the place, with a healthy dose of new Choral Music created (as with most of Bach's music) for religious observation.

Susan Chan, piano
MSR 1280
ISBN# 6 81585 12802 2
My delight of the week!  Continuing her adventures in juxtaposition of traditional Western composers and composers of the East, in works for solo piano, Susan Chan continues to open up listening windows.  Chan's accolades are worldwide, as is her training.  As an instructor she has tenure at Washington State Universtiy and currently teaches at Portland State University.  She actively promotes the music of female and Asian composers. This "East West" series beautifully demonstrates her love of classics, her ability to allign these traditional works with the works of modern and less known composers, and a larger mission.  They underscore her musical technique and understanding, with an educational component that is simultaneously accessible and expansive.

Roger Davidson, composer
Harold Rosenbaum, Cond.
New York Virtuoso Singers
SR (Soundbrush) 1034
ISBN# 8 88295 27646 7
A large number of our listeners love choral music and many are active in choirs, in church and secular choirs - sometimes both!  Davidson's new works of "universal sacred music" take traditional forms from many religions and incorporate them into new works that have a timeless sound.

for Acoustic Guitar
Steven Hancoff, guitar
OUT 960
ISBN# 7 00261 42386 9
Gift giver's delight.  Hancoff's labor of love in this 3 CD set of the Bach cello works transcribed for guitar shines through in the booklet that comes with the CD that details how he became acquainted with Bach, and then became something of a Bach biographer with a mission to help spread Bach's works to audiences that might not usually know or be aware of his works.  For the purist, it can take a sizable adjustment to get the ear used to hearing these works for a bowed instrument played on a plucked instrument with limited sustain.  For the (very large) audience who simply loves acoustic guitar, this is a welcome joy (and a great gift idea)!

Discovering Treasure for Solo Flute
Francesca Arnone, flute
MSR 1457
ISBN# 6 81585 14572 2
A CD of works for solo flute is simply not for everyone.  When these works are all by modern composers, the percentage goes down.  So why then does a performer record works like these?  Well, for some performers, it is as simple as they like working on modern music, it can be intellectually stimulating and challenge musical routines for the performer.  It's a labor of love for the instrument and the exercise of learning new works that may be both musically and melodically challenging, with an eye toward expanding both pedogogy and possibly exposing the audience to works that may, over time, become well known.  Francesca Arnone is well placed to do this, having played in the Americas, Asia and Europe, in some of the world's finest concert locations.  She also has another concurrent CD of very infectious and melodic works called "Dedications" which we've aired quite a bit since we "opened" it, which is worth looking up, and much more accessible.   Koechlin had a varied musical inner life which was in keeping with the arts of his day, sometimes very abstract, sometimes absurd, yet often romantic (melodic).  Like Reynaldo Hahn, he was known for creating extensive experimental works, and even here, Arnone recorded only about 1/2 of the movement of this exceedingly rarely performed work.  If you adore the flute, and you are musically very adventuresome, this CD will expand your horizons.

The Catalyst Quartet
AZICA 71300
ISBN# 7 87867 13002 5
The Catalyst Quartet are gaining critical raves and taking risks with their programming.  Here, their impressive project of arranging Bach's Goldberg Variations for chamber group is paired with a composition of Glenn Gould, one of the foremost interpreters of the Bach work.  Gould's work is rarely played (lovers of linear melody might add, "for good reason"), but is a smart and challenging addition to this arrangment of a beloved work of Bach that resonates on multiple levels.

Join us next week for more new releases, Just Opened!
Kara Dahl Russell

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Importance of the Teaching Relationship in Music

As our regular listeners will know, for many years during interviews, one of my standard questions for musicians has been about the teacher/student relationship.  Many great artists who achieve success young don't know the pain of a difficult learning relationship - perhaps that is the lucky part of their stellar path?   Others are reluctant to call out poor teachers or techniques, at least in part for political reasons.  Some musicians have found tremendous success having been taught in methods that are harsh and punitive, and have not realized that not all valid, talented artists can blossom under cut throat conditions.  Some great artists are known to be very poor, frustrated and discouraging teachers, while others have the gift of encouraging a variety of students.  And finally, others have moved into the inclusion of teaching as part of what they do, and these folks often have a very full insight based on both sides of the learning relationship.

This article by international virtuoso Jeremy Denk is insightful and filled with witty turns of phrase that make the (long) article worth the read, informative, and amusing, too.

"Every Good Boy Does Fine" by Jeremy Denk
link to article from The New Yorker

Enjoy this when you have time to savor his insights and language!
Kara Dahl Russell

Friday, August 14, 2015

Just Opened - August 14, 2015 - Suite and Hot Keyboard Central

Today our featured CD is a new orchestral arrangement of the beloved Claude Bolling Jazz Suite for Flute, Piano, and... orchestra.  We continue our "Animal Attraction" theme with a new CD of modern compositions for viola and piano in works inspired by animals.  We vary it with selections from a 3 CD set of works by Veracini, and smooth things out with classical piano favorites by 2 recognized artists.

Music for Viola & Piano
Michelle LaCourse, viola
Martin Amlin, piano & composer
MSR 1474
ISBN# 6 81585 14742 9
For more information on violist Michelle LaCourse
Glowing reviews on the MSR label website.
In perfect concert with our after-the-news-at-noon theme of animal inspired works, is this CD of new works by American composers for viola and piano.  Amlin's "Kennel" is a seven movement work with different breeds of dog inspiring each section.  His Sonata and Violetta are also included.  Unfortunately, his work is very much in the modern concert vein, and perhaps even more than usual, when pieces are supposed to represent animals, pets, we tend to listen and look for melody.  A recognizable melodic through line is hard to find in Amlin's jagged, repetitive, abstract works.  So while the concept of this CD is incredibly appealing, I regret to say that much of the music is... not so much for the average listener.  Those of us who follow music and music making know that this type of modern work is both intellectually and technically challenging, and for that, both of these musicians are completely up to the task.  Merfled's "Animal Miniatures" is appealing and evocative, and Houghton's "Whalefall" brings the watery, new age influence that one expects from the title; these are the accessible highlights of the CD, and those are the pieces we share today on Just Opened.  I'll leave it to our adventuresome audience members to seek out the CD for the  more challenging works.

Symphonic Arrangement by
Steve Barta
Hubert Laws, flute
Jeffrey Biegel, piano
ISBN# 6 70579 69291 5
Pianist Jeffrey Biegel's official site
My Delight of the Week!  One of our WSCL favorite pianists, Jeffrey Biegel, is at it again - recording a new take on a beloved favorite that promises to bring it back into the light again in a new version... not that Bolling's "Suite" ever left its place in popularity.  Much like seminal pieces/groups like Herb Alpert, and the 5th Dimension, some things strike such a chord that they remain in our collective positive memory - such is Bolling's Suite.  Arranger Steve Barta brings the full orchestra to this work in a way that is fulfilling and subtle.  He carefully balances the original intention (setting) of the work with the great variety possible in the orchestra to enhance the work, but never to overwhelm it.  Often an orchestration of a smaller work either changes it to make it a completely "new thing" for orchestra, or sometimes it can feel like (as do many theme and variation arrangements)  "a really big deal made out of very small concept."  Barta's special success here is the way he makes choices to keep the intimate and light feel of the work while giving it the additional musical depth.  A total success!

Samuel Perez, piano
ISBN# 8 84501 93762 7
Puerto Rico born Perez has performed in Europe, US, Mexico, the Carribean as soloist, chamber musician, and with many orchestras, playing a variety of styles.  He has received international awards and recognition, and - due to his performance styles and venues - an unusally broad array of critical acclaim from Chick Corea's copious critical compliments, to Paul Polovnik (Conductor Laureate of the New Hampshire Music Festival) calling him "the real deal."  On this CD, Perez turns his talents to the tried and true, beloved works of the Romantic era by the great masters.  He focuses largely on single movements and shorter works by Liszt, Rachmaninoff, Debussy, Mozart and Strauss, making for a savvy collection of selections that are very accessible to the ipod crowd.

Pandolfi's Website for Info. & Purchases
ISBN# 7 07541 85102 2
This release from 2006 has a simple cover photo of a keyboard, with the names of the included composers superimposed on the black keys.  Pandolfi has appeared locally a number of times in the Delmarva region, and has a growing, sparkling reputation internationally as today's foremost interpreter of Gershwin.  One of the nice things about this CD is that we really get to experience his full range, from Liszt and Scriabin, Mozart and Chopin, to Gershwin and Webber.   It is a varied display of the excellence that won him scholarships to Juliard for both his bachelor's and master's degrees.

VERACINI  (3 CD set)
Complete Sonate Accademiche
Trio Settecento
Rachel Barton Pine, violin
John Mark Rozendaal, cello
David Schrader, harpsichord
ISBN#7 35--- 91552 8
Visit Trio Settecento's site (free downloads, too!)
Gift Giver's Delight!  The individual performers of Trio Settecento are no strangers to critical acclaim, awards and rave reveiws in their solo careers, so it is not surprising that, when they pool their talent, intelligence, musicality, and interest for a labor of love like this 3 CD set of the works of Francesco Maria Veracini, it has a full bouquet of critical raves and gushing kudos.  I'll join the club.  Magnificent musicians with unity of purpose, at the top of their game, in an excellent recording.  Not everyone is a fan of Baroque music, and in any 3 CD set of one composer's works for the same trio combination, there is an inevitable sameness  (which is exactly why we mix things up on air).    For those who are not Baroque fans, these CDs could be interminable, but for most of WSCL's listeners this is a "staple" and even an entire CD would be, for most of our listeners, a soothing delight.  For any lover of baroque chamber works, this would be a magnificent gift!

Join us again next week for more great music, Just Opened!
Kara Dahl Russell

Friday, August 7, 2015

Just Opened - August 7, 2014

New releases Just Opened today, from Bach and Rachmaninov to new works by pianist Gabriela Montero, to a harp trio and Berlin's German Cabaret music.  From serious to slightly kitsch.... women ruling great music!

Jennifer Koh, violin
CEDILLE 154 (2 CD set)
ISBN # 7 3513- -1542 7
Koh continues her pursuit of excellence, and the juxtaposition of traditional composers with modern composers.  This time, two timeless Bach works paired with Bartok's sonata for solo violin, and "Frises (curls)" of Kaija Saariaho.  " A risk taking high-octane player who grabs the listener by the ears and refuses to let go."-The Strad   "One of the most impressive and expressive violinists on the scene." -L.A.Times

Composer, pianist
YOA Orchestra of the Americas
ISBN# 5 060189 56047 9
My Delight of the Week.  An inspired program of Montero's own compositions alongside her performance of the beloved Piano Concerto No. 2 of Rachmaninov.  Her powerful "Ex Patria/In Memorium" for piano and orchestra contrasted with her solo piano improvisations.   She pops up on an internet search as a "hot" pianist, and these works demostrate she is not only beautiful, but a pianist/composer/improvisor with hot classical talent!  With many of today's pianists, they are interpreters of the music of others, but we wonder when/if they will begin to compose... Montero arrives "fully formed."

Music for Flute, Viola & Harp
Fire Pink Trio
MSR 1511
ISBN# 6 81585 15112 9
Debra Reuter-Pivetta, flute, Sheila Browne, viola, and harpist Jacquelyn Bartlett on harp provide a program of variety, rhythm and contrast.   The "standard" work of Debussy's Sonata for fl,v & h is the centerpiece of this CD, while new works by Albert, Locklair, Moreno-Buendia, and Burnette take the program from serious musical intellectualism to pops. They are actively involved in commissioning new works for this trio combination (as evidenced by some of the works on this CD).  Individually and together, the three hold a full bouquet of accolades, awards, and critical praise.

available in English or German
Adrienne Haan, singer/dancer entertainer
A resident of Germany, Luxembourg and now NYC, Adrienne Haan has achieved international recognition, playing large concert stages with some of the world's most prestigious orchestras, and intimate cabaret rooms.  She has studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, The Julliard School, and with Arthur Jansen of the Cologne School of Music and Dance.  She serves on the International Advisory Board of the Duke Ellington Center for the arts, and is recognized as a cultural ambassador.

Talented women bringing a huge variety of great music to our airwaves today.  Join us next week for more new releases, Just Opened.
Kara Dahl Russell

Friday, July 24, 2015

Just Opened - July 24, 2015

Today we open up a variety of folk inspired music, from composers who were loosely inspired by folk music, to orchestrations of well known folk melodies, to and interesting chamber music group playing new arrangements of traditional eastern european music and klezmer.

Beethoven Piano Sonatas Vol. 4
Jonathan Biss, piano
ISBN# 8 89176 27996 6
International performer, speaker, instructor at the Curtiss Institute, Jonathan Biss has made a deep committment to the Sonatas of Beethoven.   This is Vol. 4 of a 9 volume set (in progress) of all the piano sonatas of Beethoven, and he has also created online courses where he details the influences, the approach, and the performance of these works.

Enigma Variations
The Wasps & Greensleeves Vars.
Kansas City Symphony
Michael Stern
ISBN#0 30911 11292 9
The Kansas City Symphony has committed to a growing body of recordings of works which are receiving critical raves.  Here they focus on British composers, in basic works which are essential elements of any growing classical music collection.

Zina Schiff, violin
Cameron Grant, piano
MSR 1493
ISBN# 6 81585 14932 4
Schiff was a protege of the great Heifitz, and has been compared to him by reviewers.   She studied at the Curtis Institute and has awards and acclaim internationally.   As Pianist for the New York City Ballet, Grant has played all the major piano ballets.  They bring a symbiosis of style and dramatic flair to their musical pairing.  The selections for this CD are all "modern" works, but not the intimidating kind, Copeland and Bloch known for their taste for tunes.

Klezmer and East European Folk Music
The Ucalgary String Quartet
arrangments by Edmond Agopian
MSR 1276
ISBN# 6 81585 12762 9
My Delight of the Week!  Our blog readers know that rarity often counts a lot with me, and the combination of free-wheeling interpretation, varied arrangements, musical comraderie and rarity make this an easy pick for me this week.  (Understanding that this will not be a favorite with the conservative classical listener who wants the tried and true concert hall greats.)  The UCalgary String Quartet is the quartet in residence at the University of Calgary.  The UCalgary String Quartet was nominated for the Instrumental Group of the Year Award at the Canadian Folk Music Awards and at the Western Canadian Music Awards. The nominated recording, on the American label MSR Classics, is titled Far Behind I Left My Country – Klezmer and East European Folk Music – Arranged and Composed by Edmond Agopian. “This is music of deep-seated humanity…incredibly vivacious, sorrowful, nostalgic…performed here with affectionate understanding.” FANFARE MAGAZINE (USA)

Join us again next week for more new releases, Just Opened!
Kara Dahl Russell

Friday, July 17, 2015

Just Opened - July 17, 2015

With a baseline of the Baroque music of Purcell and Festing, we branch out to new music for chamber by Maria Newman, early modern virtuoso piano show pieces played by a piano star worth knowing, and a buffet of orchestral highlights in a "sampler" CD.

The Indian Queen
The Sixteen
Harry Christophers, cond.
CORO 16129
ISBN# 8 28021 61292 3
For more info., & purchase from The Sixteen's website
The musical excellence of Harry Christophers and The Sixteen (Early and Baroque, Vocal and original instrument group) is almost legendary, with perpetually glowing reviews from BBC Music Magazine, Grammophone, and even the Financial Times!  The major portion of this CD is a recording of Henry Purcell's semi-opera based on a conflict between Mexicans and Peruvian (reflecting the Baroque era's fascination with the "new world").  Purcell died young, and his brother Daniel actually completed the work, so it is fitting that the other work on this CD is Daniel Purcell's "The Masque of Hymen" reflecting another Baroque era fascination, greek mythology and the hijinx of the gods and goddesses.   With this combination of prime material and musical excellence, this CD is sure to satisfy YOUR fascination with the Baroque!

Malibu Chamber Players
MAHMR 1205201
ISBN#  7 24101 22532 1
For more information, click here.
For those who seek musical adventures, the Malibu Chamber Players have released another exploration of the new works of Maria Newman. "She writes in a highly listenable idiom, richly scored.... pleasant in harmony, assertive in style...."  D. Moore, "American Record Guide"

TUTTI Orchestral Sampler
Various Orchestras and Artists
ISBN# 0 30911 19062 0
My Delight of the Week!  If you are a listener who likes those memorable melodies from established favorite concert works, this is the CD for you.  Some folks call these "old chestnuts," but these timeless melodies are favorites that have stood the tests of time, like "The Great Gate" from Pictures at an Exhibition, the "Andante" from Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 21, the "Berceuse and Finale" from Stravinsky's The Firebird.  This CD supplies you with the "best bits" from the most requested concert hits.

Violin Sonatas
Bradywine Baroque
ISBN#8 88295 20206 0
If you want to "buy local," then we certainly hope you're adding support of local and regional musicians to your shopping cart!  Brandywine Baroque, based in Wilmington, DE, has an enviable critical acclaim and reputation for excellence in performance and in musicology.  Known for researching and performing works by the well known names of the Baroque era as well as the names that have been mostly forgotten, they are audience favorites and a reliable resource for your music collection.  Brandywine Baroque is supported in part by the Delaware Division of the Arts.

Sean Chen, piano
ISBN# 0 34062 30029 7
The repertoire on this CD was specifically chosen for being "of it's time."  Music that reflects both the appreciation of the beauty of the Romantic era, while looking ahead for new form and substance from the great changes going on in industry and life in the early 1900s.   Ravel's "Noble and Sentimental Waltzes" is the core of this CD, and the other works, by Ravel and Scriabin reflect this late romantic, early modern sensibility.   Sean Chen is a rising piano star, and in 2013 he won one of the most lucrative and significant prizes available to an american pianist:  The American Pianists Association's DeHaan Classical Fellowship.

We hope you enjoyed today's new releases, Just Opened.
Kara Dahl Russell


The views expressed in the posts and comments of this blog do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Public Radio Delmarva, its staff, members, underwriters, Salisbury University, or the Salisbury University Foundation. They should be understood as the personal opinions of the author. No information on this blog will be understood as official.